“So why has Sinn Fein become just another nationalist party?”

Invited or not, in yesterday’s Irish News Patrick Murphy had some thoughts relevant to the conversation Sinn Féin’s Toiréasa Ferris professed to want. Starting with the International Representative for west Belfast’s whistle-stop World Tour. From the Irish News article

Some see this not so much as politics, more as show business. (You’ve seen the stage show, now buy the CDs: Sinn Fein at Carnegie Hall, Sinn Fein Sings the National Anthem, Your Favourite Christmas Hits with Sinn Fein, Sinn Fein Sings Shirley Bassey).

If republicans are, by tradition, revolutionary and radical it would be reasonable to expect their economic policies to include, for example, opposition to the use of private finance in health and education projects. That, of course, would put them at odds with all other parties. Surely republicans are meant to be out of step with capitalism and conservatism? If not, what makes them different?

, , , , , , ,

  • “republicanism, as defined by Wolfe Tone, is strictly non-sectarian.”

    I thought Tone was more anti-Church than non-sectarian. Adams and McGuinness have both been very close to a number of politically minded Catholic clerics.

    “if we gave the SDLP guns tomorrow, they would be republicans.”

    I shouldn’t imagine that the SDLP has or had an organised crime wing or takes political direction from an Army Council.

  • Tone was anti-sectarian. He wanted to remove people identifying themselves as a member of a religion first, and replace with with our common heritage. What a man.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    No, Tone became, on the continetal model, an anti-clerical, not some fluffy, ‘anti-sectarian’ proto-Alliance stooge. And that creed, Tone’s creed at the time of his death, was one the millions slaughtered in its name in the C20th proved to be as sectarian as any. Not that our Jacobin chums hadn’t already, in Tone’s time, demonstrated quite how vile a doctrine it was.

    As to Sinn Five: they’re not quite a nationalist party as any other for the simple fact that the SDLP isn’t run out of Thames House.

  • steve white

    what other nationalist parties?

  • jim

    more p baker crap, some 1 stop this !

  • John O’Connell

    The other explanation is that the Provisional IRA never were republicans, just armed Catholics reacting to sectarian pogroms and inevitably gravitating towards Irish nationalism.

    I agree with this. The biggest difference between the SDLP and Sinn Fein is empathy for other human beings with burned out ex Provos and their cronies making it seem that Sinn Fein have a cause in excess of the SDLP’s when that cause is really just them expressing their lack of empathy. Lack of empathy sells newspapers and creates diversions from the only true cause, the cause of social justice.

    You get Adams in the USA expressing his lack of empathy for the unionists by suggesting that if they help us to gang up on the unionists we will get our wicked way with them. A lack of empathy is so ingrained in the Sinn Fein mindset that they will never find the path to true Irish unity. Only the SDLP can do that.

  • LTU,

    Did I say he was like Alliance? As for the idea that there were millions slaughtered in the name of anti-clericalism in the C20th, I suggest you see a doctor.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    “As for the idea that there were millions slaughtered in the name of anti-clericalism in the C20th, I suggest you see a doctor” – I suggest you consult the *stated* political beliefs of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini and Mao. Each and every one of them was a self-declared enemy of established religion. But defend them if you want: I’m more than happy to judge you by the company you seek to keep.

  • Mack

    opposition to the use of private finance in health and education projects.

    Eh? Focusing on the means and not the end is sure to be a vote winner!

  • Dave

    “The other explanation is that the Provisional IRA never were republicans, just armed Catholics reacting to sectarian pogroms and inevitably gravitating towards Irish nationalism.”

    That’s true. If you look at the Provos, you won’t see any middle-class intellectuals who were motivated by ideals; all you will see are working-class street thugs. There is no Tone or Pearse among them. As Eamon McCann wrote:

    [i]”The Catholic working-class anger that gave rise to the emergence of the Provos as a major player in the early 1970s did not represent a new flowering of republican ideas, an old, authentic, long-repressed tradition suddenly gushing forth again through the cracks caused by the seismic impact of the 1960s civil rights movement. It’s truer to say, as Moloney does, that the tiny republican movement of the time, embodied in Belfast in a few families, like the Adamses, the Hannaways, the Prices and the MacAirts, provided an organizational framework, a channel for expression and a readiness to fight that matched the sudden mood of the Catholic masses and offered a ready-made ideology to lend their struggle seeming resonance at a time when their communities were under siege by Protestant loyalist mobs, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the British Army.

    One of the most revered rural leaders of the IRA in the 1980s observed a few years ago that “those fellows from Belfast were never really republicans. They were only fighting for their streets.” Fighting for your street, of course, is not necessarily an ignoble thing to do. In certain circumstances–Belfast 1969–it can be no more than neighborly duty. But the impulse to defend one’s locality doesn’t automatically harden into a clear set of ideas. What had pitched whole Catholic working-class communities outside the constitutional arena was not mass conversion to an -ism or a particular conception of history but immediate, material considerations. Most who joined or came to support the IRA did so not out of a sacred duty to “free Ireland” or in pursuit of a historic mission to vindicate the Republic but because they wanted the bigot’s boot off their necks and the British Army off their backs. If these grievances could be remedied short of the achievement of the Republic, then there was the basis of a settlement within existing constitutional structures.”[/i]

    It is logical that they should conclude their campaign by administering British rule because their agenda was not to end British rule but rather to improve the quality of it for the community they represented. So, there is no real need to ponder how they can call themselves nationalists when they have formally renounced the right of their nation to national self-determination and a nation-state or how they can call themselves republicans when they did not support the right of the people to elect their own government, etc, because these labels were just cloaks of convenience that disguised their real motivations.

    They were basically street thugs who enjoyed a level of authority that would never have been available to them if the likes of Eamon McCann and John Hume didn’t see any opportunity massage their socialist egos by posing as local versions of Martin Luther King and it Martin McGuinness remained as a butcher’s delivery boy and Gerry Adams remained a barman. It was easy to buy them off by addressing what motivated them. It also suited the Whitehall mandarins to direct catholic away from the civil disobedience (which collapsed colonial rule in other regions) as the primary means of expressing their grievances and into organised gangs as this allowed the state to introduce repressive security measures to retain control of the state. It also allowed the mandarins to conflate the claim to remove the Unionist Veto preventing national self-determination and a nation-state with terrorism (from both sets of state-sponsored murder gangs) so that the formal renunciation of those claims and the formal acceptance of the legitimacy of British rule would be delivered as the welcome trade-off for the cessation of that terrorism.

    So that ‘peace process’ was not about removing British rule from Northern Ireland but rather it was about consolidating it and extending it into the rest of the island (such as the promotion of British states sovereignty over vital cultural and economic institutions of the Irish state via the NSMC and by the requirement in the GFA that the nation-state of Ireland be dismantled and replaced with a replica of Northern Ireland as a condition of unity). Irish unity is no longer about promoting Irish nationalism but about undermining it. Unity has become an anti-nationalist agenda.

  • John O’Connell

    Dave

    Your inferiority complex about the Irish is well expressed.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Very good, Dave. You make the mistake of viewing the Provisional Alliance as an homogenous body.It was an alliance of rural rightwing republicans who felt that the time had come (again),sectarian thugs and petty criminals. All led by far sighted catholic politicians who eventually lifted their prize. The thugs and republicans are no longer needed.But don’t underestimate the genuine non-sectarian republican tradition (including middle class ‘intellectuals’) who do exist.

  • [i]If you look at the Provos, you won’t see any middle-class intellectuals who were motivated by ideals; all you will see are working-class street thugs. There is no Tone or Pearse among them.[/i]

    Utter rubbish Dave. Of course there were more than a few “street thugs” involved, but the movement contained many very bright and articulate individuals, at all levels, who had none of the opportunities available to nationalists today and became involved in street violence. Sweeping generalisations perpetuated by ignorance are pitiful.

  • LTU,

    if you think that the fascists shared an ideology with the communists, you definitely need to see a doctor. You might though actually offer evidence of a war started in the name of anti-clericalism to support your claim.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    You *really* aren’t aware of the common anti-clericalism of Russian and Chinese communism, and Italian and German fascism? WTF are they teaching you kids these days? Go away and read a book: this is just too embarrassing now.

  • I have not denied that Communism was anti-clerical. The German and especially the Italian issue is much more complex, and far from straightforward, especially in Italy. Nevermind Spain of course.

    What I have denied is that there were millions of people killed for anti-clericalism. Which is what you said. And now you are trying to ignore the fact I’ve asked you to prove that ridiculous statement.

    It is embarassing, but not for me.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    You’re beyond embarassing at this point: I said the dull, historical truth: in excess of a hundred million people were slaughtered by totalitarian ideologies in the C20th, each and every one of which had as a component, undeniable element their fundamental hostility to established religion. That you’re trying, and failing in spectacular fashion, to deny this, says plenty about you and the obscene crew you wish to defend. Pace Spain – no one but you mentioned Spain. I certainly didn’t and for two pertinent reasons: the Movimiento Nacional weren’t fascists, and, Franco’s Spain didn’t start wars of agression.

    Seriously Gary, stopping making an arse of yourself: your heroes, be they fascists or communists or both, were very bad people, for whom their anti-clericalism was an absolutely central belief.

  • “No, Tone became, on the continetal model, an anti-clerical, not some fluffy, ‘anti-sectarian’ proto-Alliance stooge. And that creed, Tone’s creed at the time of his death, was one the millions slaughtered in its name in the C20th proved to be as sectarian as any.”

    Show me where this says anything about totalitarian ideologies in the C20th. Firstly it is in the singular. The only ideology it refers to is anti-clericalism. Therefore it states that anti-clericalism slaughtered millions. I’ll ask you again: tell me about a war started on the grounds of anti-clericalism in the C20th that resulted in millions of deaths.

    I have not denied that anti-clericalism was part of communism. I am however questioning the validity of the assertion that both Mussolini and Hitler were uncomplicatedly anti-clerical; instead their policies towards churches varied over time.

    As for your claim that the Francoists weren’t fascists, they certainly thought they were. Franco started a war of aggression when he sought to overthrow the democratically-elected government. I’m laughing at the thought that fascists are my heroes when you are the one whitewashing Spanish fascism by claiming it didn’t exist.

    I’ll look forward to hearing all about these anti-clerical wars started by one, sorry two ideologies that are totally different but actually completely the same.

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    Hey, it’s not up to me to determine who *you* seek to hero-worship. If you want to slavishly defend the murders of C20th totalitarianism – with your spacer effort to pretend these states weren’t *all*, every single one of them, anti-clerical – go right ahead. That you don’t know enough about Spanish politics to know that Franco wasn’t a fascist is hardly suprising given that you think civil wars are ‘wars of agression’ (they’re between states, not within states – that’s what the phrase means, it exists precisely in order that we might distinguish inter-state conflicts from rebellions, civil wars and the like).

    But as this is now all just too special needsy, I’ll say this as slowly as I can: all the wars of agression started in the C20th (and for that matter, the ones started by your, and Tone’s, Jacobin idols) by totalitarian states were started by regimes that werefundamentally opposed to established religion*. That you’ve, through astonishing historical illiteracy, tried to defend these regimes against this simple fact says volumes both about your ignorance and your morals.

    *Shintoist Japan started wars of agression, but while a dictatorship, wasn’t ‘totalitarian’.

  • So once again you’re ignoring the fact that you can’t cite any examples of a war started for anti-clerical reasons. For the simple reason there aren’t any. Not a one. And as for the idea that fsacism and communism are the same because of attitudes to the church. The Nazis declared 1789 expunged from history. How does that fit into your scheme of Nazis as same as Jacobins then?

    As for Spain. Franco invaded Spain from outside in its colonies. And the Germans were involved – as an act of fascist solidarity. The only person who seems to think the Falangists weren’t fascist is you. As I’ve said the Francoists regarded themselves as such as did the other fascist movements in Europe. But nope, they were all wrong and you are right. Cause you say so.

    As for historical illiteracy. Apart from the examples I’ve already demonstrated by quoting from your own mouth, where one ideology has magically become two etc, may I point out that the Jacobins never started any wars by the way? The war was begun by a different group to whom the Jacobins were opposed. Robsepierre opposed the war.

    I haven’t tried to defend any regimes. I’ve simply pointed out the falseity of your statements. And, once again, were those wars of aggression carried out for anti-clerical purposes as you suggested in your original post?

  • John East Belfast

    Ireland has had a Republic since 1921 following a Treaty supported by the vast majority of people in that part of Ireland that wanted one.

    Even the majority of those who didnt eventually came round.

    Therefore SF are only playing catch up in recent years to what the rest of Ireland moved on on 80 to 90 years ago.

    What late 20th Century SF was about was forcing an agreement on the rest of Ireland using violence in a campaign that once again was opposed by the majority of people in Ireland.

    That agreement was that no part of Ireland would be under British jurisdiction.
    That to me is Irish Separatism but to others is likley Irish Nationalism.

    Their preferred method of Govt thereafter might have been “Republicanism” modelled on “Marxism”.

    I dont think it is right to say Republicanism equates to violence nor do I udnerstand why “republicans are meant to be out of step with capitalism and conservatism”.

    Therefore SF are possibly both Republican and Nationalist – but I suspect those in the SDLP might also claim that mantle ?

    Therefore all he is saying is that because SF have given up violence they have ceased to be Republicans but I cant see how violence is the defining factor ?

  • Laughing (Tory) Unionist

    This canard about wars being ‘started’ for anti-clerical reasons was, of course, one introduced by you, as part of your vile and idiotic effort to defend the slaughter carried out by your totalitarian chums. The point *I* made was the vastly simply one that all those wars started by totalitarian regimes were started by regimes whose totalitarianism encompassed their fundamental hostility to established religion: it’s right up there at the top of the thread, and no matter how many times you tru to rewrite history, in matters small or massive, there it still sits.

    By all means carry on making a fool of yourself, but your friends, who murdered those millions, all did so as bag and baggage with their anti-religious mantra. As for Franco’s supposed fascism, if you are actually quite this stupid, and are not just playing up, you really should write a book. ‘Why everyone else is wrong and I am right’ would do as a title, but golly the historians of C20th Spain will be surprised by your research.

  • This is the second time I’ve quoted this

    “No, Tone became, on the continetal model, an anti-clerical, not some fluffy, ‘anti-sectarian’ proto-Alliance stooge. And that creed, Tone’s creed at the time of his death, was one the millions slaughtered in its name in the C20th proved to be as sectarian as any.”

    It’s quite clear that the creed you refer to here is anti-clericalism. You do not mention anything else, and most certainly not totalitarianism. Unless of course you conflate anti-clericalism and totalitarianism, in which case you’ll have a hard time explaining the actions of people like Sarkozy. If you now wish to say that actually you didn’t mean anti-clericalism then that’s fine. But as that quote stands its meaning is quite clear. Actually that should be its lack of meaning as it makes no sense.

    If you wish to explain how the sentence I have quoted from your first comment in this thread contains the idea that “all those wars started by totalitarian regimes were started by regimes whose totalitarianism encompassed their fundamental hostility to established religion” then please do so. I’ll be extremely impressed if you can manage it.

    As I’ve pointed out I’ve simply been asking you to provide evidence for this statement. Which you have failed to do, instead resorting to insult and accusations of ignorance. And in doing so, you have exposed your own ignorance. Such as on whether the Jacobins actually started any wars, yet you accuse me of trying to rewrite history.

    I find though your repeated statements that Francoism was not fascist to be laughable. I have offered several examples as to how the Francoists were fascist – not least Nazi military support – and you have offered precisely nothing. Other than to turn my remark that you are right and the contemporaries who regarded Franco as fascist against me by saying the same thing about me. The difference of course being the evidence I have offered.

    As for being foolish. Anyone who thinks that one can be a friend of both fascism and communism is so foolish as to not require refutation by pointing out the fundamental differences between them, and their innate hostility to one another.

    And do you mean historians like Paul Preston, Kathleen Richmond, Stanley Payne, Shlomo Ben-Ami to name a few historians who write on Spanish fascism – which according to you didn’t exist?

  • Dave

    “You make the mistake of viewing the Provisional Alliance as an homogenous body. It was an alliance of rural rightwing republicans who felt that the time had come (again),sectarian thugs and petty criminals.” – Pancho’s Horse

    That isn’t a mistake. A group is defined by its common attributes not by its anomalies.

    “All led by far sighted catholic politicians who eventually lifted their prize.” – Pancho’s Horse

    The ‘prize’ they lifted was an internal settlement. That puts them into the category of fascists who used violence to achieve political gain within a sovereign state rather than so-called revolutionaries who used violence to revert the sovereignty of that state to the nation who reside within it. By claiming that this was their prize, you concede that their game was neither nationalism nor republicanism but self-serving sectarian advantage. In other words, you agree with me.

    “The thugs and republicans are no longer needed.” – Pancho’s Horse

    They were never needed. Unless, of course, you mean that they were ‘needed’ so that the British government could bring the Catholic community to accept a demand that was made by that government partition, i.e. that they accept the legitimacy of Northern Ireland and agree that another nation should hold a veto over their right to national self-determination in perpetuity. Whereas prior to their ‘need’ all nationalist parties rejected the legitimacy of that veto, subsequent to that need, all nationalist parties accepted it. As Margaret Thatcher put it, “the minority must be led to accept the constitutional framework of the state in which they live.” That was the sole mission of the British government, and that is mission accomplished.

    “But don’t underestimate the genuine non-sectarian republican tradition (including middle class ‘intellectuals’) who do exist.” – Pancho’s Horse

    They exist, but they’re not Provos. Even the dumbest of them would have known how “genuine” that “non-sectarian republican tradition” was after Bloody Friday and La Mon.

    In addition, no republican would support a group of street thugs who did not even recognise the right of the Irish nation to freely elect its own government. The difference between actual republicans and the Provos is that those republicans acted in the absence of alternative means to secure an Irish nation-state and after they had secured it, they accepted that will of the Irish nation as it is expressed through national self-determination must be respected. The Provos were not acting to secure a right to national self-determination for the Irish nation because this had already been secured. The Irish nation-state already existed. That nation expressed its will to acheive unity by exclusively peaceful means, and that will was disregarded by the Provos, thereby showing that they no respect whatsoever for that principle of national self-determination. Indeed, just as actual republicans acted to secure a nation-state, the Provos acted at the behest of their paymasters to dismantle it.

    “Utter rubbish Dave. Of course there were more than a few “street thugs” involved, but the movement contained many very bright and articulate individuals, at all levels, who had none of the opportunities available to nationalists today and became involved in street violence. Sweeping generalisations perpetuated by ignorance are pitiful.” – Pat the baker

    Oh I see… so, the Provos were sort of militant civil rights workers? It had nothing to do with the bogus aims, but was actually about improving the lot of Catholics. Isn’t that what I said?

    “It is logical that they should conclude their campaign by administering British rule because their agenda was not to end British rule but rather to improve the quality of it for the community they represented.” – Dave

    “Your inferiority complex about the Irish is well expressed.” – John O’Connell

    I probably shuld have left out the blasphmey against John Hume – “if the likes of Eamon McCann and John Hume didn’t see an opportunity to massage their socialist egos by posing as local versions of Martin Luther King”

  • kensei

    If republicans are, by tradition, revolutionary and radical it would be reasonable to expect their economic policies to include, for example, opposition to the use of private finance in health and education projects

    Neither “revolutionary” or “radical” have any relevance to this. Only the professed “socialism” does. But it’s a somewhat odd choice for an ideological argument.

  • McKelvey

    “As for your claim that the Francoists weren’t fascists, they certainly thought they were. ”

    This isn’t very accurate at all.

  • west1

    the francoists and the falange were not one in the same.they may have been on the same side but they were different entities.the falange certainly may have been fascist,franco on the other hand was an anti-communist clerical-conservative.